It was a quiet Wednesday night in college hoops for everyone outside Raleigh, North Carolina.
In Raleigh, however, a team that the Wolfpack faithful have been dying to see get the attention they deserve will now.
Here’s everything you need to know from Wednesday’s college hoops action:
1. N.C. STATE MADE THEIR STATEMENT
The Wolfpack landed their biggest win of the season on Wednesday night, as they knocked off No. 7 Auburn in impressive fashion in Raleigh, 78-71.
It was far from the prettiest basketball game that you’ve ever seen played — N.C. State’s 22 turnovers were bettered by Auburn’s 25 — but I don’t think Kevin Keatts cares one iota about that. A win is a win is a win, especially when his defense was responsible for shutting down one of college basketball’s most high-powered and dangerous offenses.
I’ve been on the Wolfpack since the preseason. We had them ranked 24th heading into the year. They were 15th in the most recent NBC Sports Top 25. This is a team that has a has half-dozen guards that are capable of being starters in the ACC, a star in Markell Johnson — who had 27 points, four assists and three steals in the win — and a head coach that thrives with a roster of players that have a chip on their shoulder and play like it.
Auburn has not looked all that impressive early on this season, and N.C. State has a long, long way to go during ACC play.
But this was a big win for the program, not just because it’s a statement of intent for this season, but because it certainly is going to help their profile come Selection Sunday.
2. KIHEI CLARK IS BACK
I have no idea how it is humanly possible for this two happen, but roughly a week and a half after undergoing surgery for a fracture in his wrist, Kihei Clark, Virginia’s freshman point guard, returned to the lineup to score two points and hand out two assists as No. 5 Virginia knocked off South Carolina.
The win itself is not all that important. The Gamecocks are way down this year, and Virginia made light work of them. What matters is that Clark is an incredibly important piece for the Wahoos. He’s the point of their defense, he’s the guy that provides depth and versatility in their backcourt and he’s the player that allows De’Andre Hunter to play his more natural position as a four.
This is very, very good news for Virginia.
3. CINCINNATI HUMILIATES UCLA
Let’s start with the good: Cincinnati improved to 10-2 on the season as Jarron Cumberland went for 25 points in a win over UCLA. The Bearcats are not quite as talented as they have been in the past, but they never lost their trademark toughness and now, with wins over Mississippi, Xavier and UCLA, are starting to put together a resume that could get them in the mix for an at-large bid if those three teams find a way to get better this year.
But that’s not really the story of what happened Wednesday night.
The story is that UCLA, a team with three McDonald’s All-Americans, two guys with a real shot of being a first round pick in June and at least seven, depending where you look, top 100 prospects on the roster that has now lost two games in a row and fallen to 7-4 in non-conference play.
They were embarrassed by Cincinnati, just like they were embarrassed by Michigan State and North Carolina. There are reasons why the Bruins are this bad, but there is no valid excuse for this. The worrying part is that the Pac-12 is a dumpster fire. There are not going to be enough good wins in that league to push a team from the wrong side of the bubble to the right side of the bubble. And without a win over No. 15 Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago on Saturday, UCLA will probably be on the wrong side of the bubble.
And that could very well mean that Steve Alford is on the wrong side of being employed by UCLA come March.